"During the summer
of 1967 I took a job with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. I needed
a job for the summer until I was to go into the Marines in October.
I went to Anchorage and applied for any job I could get for the summer
with the civil service. Just as I got home I received a call offering
me a job as an ordinary seaman on the OSS PATHFINDER, an oceanographic
research ship, based in Kodiak. Later I found the ship was affectionately
known as the 'PIGFINDER.' I accepted the offer of employment, flew to
Kodiak the next day, and reported aboard the ship. I was accompanied
by five other new hires.
"As it was late in the evening the quartermaster gave us some blankets
and told us to find an empty bunk, known as a 'rack,' and get some
sleep until morning. About one in the morning I was suddenly awakened.
There was loud singing and shouting. Then there was the sound of bodies
bouncing off the bulkheads. It seems the crew was coming back from
a night in the town of Kodiak. They were for the most part quite drunk.
They introduced themselves to me and told me to get a good night's
"The job was very physical in nature. The ship was recharting the
shoreline and ocean bottom off of Shelikof Strait, Kodiak and the
Aleutian Islands to update the charts due to the changes after the
"Much of my job was loading and unloading equipment from the ship
to small boats for the scientists and surveyors. The rest of the time
was spent scrubbing decks and general ship maintenance.
"Most of the maintenance was chipping paint. Chipping paint seems
to be an ancient time consuming tradition of the sea. It's primary
purpose apparently is to keep sailors busy so they don't get bored.
First the paint is chipped away from any rust spots with a chipping
hammer and a wire brush. After that a coat of red colored rust inhibitor
known as 'red death' is applied. After that a coat of green called
'green death' is applied. After they are dry a coat of paint is applied
to match the color scheme of the vessel. As there seemed to be an
endless supply of paint it did no good to try to use it all.
"Many times I went ashore to work as a porter for the scientific
crews. After the equipment was set up we could go beach combing. We
found hundreds of glass Japanese fishing floats. Sometimes we found
Russian ones. They were made of iron. I still have a few of these
"The bos'n was an old sailor named 'Chief Scott'. He was a kindly
old man and took a liking to those of us that worked hard and tried.
When weather was too bad to be above decks he would take us below
and give us practical seamanship lessons. He taught to tie knots and
to handle small boats. Of course he told us old sea stories. We liked
him and he liked us. It is unbelievable how many kinds of knots he
knew. After he accepted us it was OK to call him 'Scottie.'
"Another old bos'n told us how he was on a freighter in Manila in
the 1930's. He told us of tying up next to a small ship and looking
at it with disdain. He commented that he hoped he would never be found
working on a ship like that. It was the PATHFINDER. [The PATHFINDER
that Mr. Lincoln served on was not launched until 1942. The PATHFINDER
referred to was the old PATHFINDER which served in the Philippine
Islands for forty years before being lost due to hostile action in
"After a few weeks I was assigned as helmsman. This meant I was to
steer the ship. It was interesting because I was on the bridge with
the captain and other officers. I usually knew what was happening.
It takes some practice to learn to steer without wandering all over
the ocean. Once in the middle of the night I turned hard right to
avoid a large log floating dead ahead. Of course the ship heeled over
to starboard. Many of the crew were thrown out of their racks and
onto the deck. They expressed their extreme displeasure to me the
next morning. I then learned that it is best to go ahead and ram a
floating log rather than face the wrath of sailors who have had their
"We hit a few storms off the Aleutians. The ship would roll way over
on its side and take green water over the bow. sometimes the water
would come over the flying bridge. The flying bridge is the open bridge
one deck above the command bridge. During extreme weather everyone
was required to stay inside. No one was allowed on deck for fear of
being swept overboard. Often times most of the crew would be seasick.
I only got seasick a little bit. Now I seem to get seasick all the
"Sometimes the North Pacific was calm as a lake. It was very beautiful.
For a few days in the month of August the earth passed through a meteor
shower. At night from the flying bridge we could watch hundreds of
meteors burning through the sky. I've never seen anything like it.
"Once a sailor fell overboard. The ship was stopped and we were preparing
to lower a skiff to take some supplies ashore. As he stepped into
the skiff the ship rolled and he fell into the water. The water was
about 34 degrees. He was paralyzed by the cold. He couldn't call for
help and he couldn't swim because of the cold shock. Fortunately he
was wearing a life jacket. He was pulled out of the water in a short
time and other than being cold he was OK. To this day I believe in
wearing a life jacket when I am around the water.
"The ship was tied up to the pier with a big 4 inch rope called a
hawser. The rope is too big to throw ashore so it must be pulled ashore
with a smaller rope called a heaving line. At the end of the heaving
line is a baseball sized knot called a monkey fist. It is wrapped
around a steel weight so it can be thrown ashore to someone on the
dock. The ship is then winched in by capstans mounted on the deck.
One sailor insisted on his right to throw the heaving line ashore.
He threw the monkey fist with all his strength. Unfortunately he forgot
about the motor launch just over his head. The monkey fist hit the
keel, bounced back, and knocked the sailor unconscious. He never heard
the end of it.
"It was interesting to visit some of the normally inaccessible places
ashore. One place was Karluk and its old Orthodox Church. One of the
older native women gave us a tour of the church. She explained everything
and told how the icons had been brought to Alaska from old Russia.
It was like stepping several hundred years back in time. We visited
old abandoned canneries. We went ashore on Augustine Island and visited
the volcano. I have been on the Barren Islands and the Shumagin Islands.
"Often we saw seals and whales. We could feed the seals hot dogs
from small boats. The whales were impressive. Killer whales used to
come out of the water alongside our boats. The whales were longer
than our 16 foot boat. We were assured by the biologists that no one
had ever been known to have been attacked by a killer whale. The usual
retort was, "If someone has been attacked, who would know about it?"
"We had fun with seagulls. They were everywhere. We used to take
two pieces of meat and tie them together with about three feet of
string. It was fun to watch the gulls fight over it. Another trick
was to pour tabasco sauce over a piece of meat and throw it to the
gulls. The gulls would squawk and beat their wings against the water
as they tried to drink.
"Sometimes we anchored at night in a secluded cove that was protected
from the wind. We dropped crab pots over the stern and in the morning
had fresh crab for breakfast.
"The cooks were Filipinos. All meals had rice and pineapple served
somewhere. I got so sick of rice and pineapple I swore I would never
eat them again. Even today when I eat rice and pineapple I remember
"Once I was on a small boat that got lost in the fog. We were charting
the ocean bottom. A sudden fog bank rolled in and we were not able
to see. We radioed the PATHFINDER and asked them if they could pick
us up on radar. They couldn't. They sounded the ships horn. We couldn't
hear. We began to worry. Being run down by a passing freighter was
a possibility. Another possibility was running on the rocks along
the coastline. After several hours the fog suddenly lifted and we
found we had drifted within a few hundred yards of the ship. It felt
really good to see it sitting there right in front of us.